Huge international demand for wildlife from Malaysia, says TRAFFIC

New Straits Times 15 Dec 15;

THERE is a huge demand for wildlife sourced from within the country, including in the international exotic cuisine market.

Wildlife trade monitoring network, TRAFFIC, said the trend was becoming more worrying as those behind the illicit trade tried aggressively to meet the increasing demand of the market.

Its Southeast Asia programme manager, Kanitha Krishnasamy, said failing to immediately rein in the culprits would only lead to the extinction of wildlife species in the country.

She revealed that these species, alive, in parts or already processed in secondary industries, were trafficked across land borders in lorries or hidden in cars or trucks to neighbouring countries before they were sent across the world where there was demand.

“There are many Malaysian poachers and Malaysian-based traders conducting business with others throughout the world, and this is done both legally and illegally.

“These exotic animals are also illegally exported via air and sea cargo when smugglers want to move large quantities or move them quickly.

“Sometimes, when rare and unique wildlife is smuggled for pets, they are hidden in check-in luggage or on the smuggler’s body or clothing.

“Some animals, or their parts, and plants are also brought into the country via small boats that dock at the countless illegal landings along Malaysia’s long coastline.

“It is not surprising that Malaysia is a popular supply market as it is rich in biodiversity, where wildlife is still abundant and is a big tourism draw,” she told the New Straits Times.

Kanitha said because of Malaysia’s strategic position and excellent logistics, it was also used as a transit point in the smuggling of wildlife parts and products, for example, ivory.

She said easy access into the forests, where in places like the 400,000ha Belum-Temengor served as haven for poachers, makes Malaysia an even more appealing supply market.

“Some poachers use firearms, snares or traps to capture the animals.

“Deer hunting, for example, is a serious problem, which affects the tiger population, as they are the latter’s main source of food,” said Kanitha, adding that the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010, which covered the peninsula was a strong law that afforded wildlife strong protection.

However, she said, the wildlife protection laws in Sabah and Sarawak were outdated.

Kanitha said according to a 2012 survey on the commercial trade of wild meat by TRAFFIC, Sabah and Sarawak had the highest number of restaurants where wild meat was served.

In Peninsular Malaysia, she said, the sambar and barking deer were found to be available in 20 restaurants, despite a moratorium in place prohibiting the sale of both species.

“Species such as the serow, also prized for its wild meat, is hunted in Malaysia.

“In the peninsula, the serow is the most commonly observed Totally Protected species in restaurants, being sold for up to RM30 per serving.

“Of the 165 restaurants that served wild meat in the peninsula, 18 restaurants in five states offered serow meat for sale.”

Kanitha said currently, raids and checks were conducted periodically, based either on tip-offs or investigations by the authorities.

She said the public could provide tip-offs to law enforcement agencies if they know of any poaching activities and that they could also call the Wildlife Crime Hotline at 019-3564194.